Quick-response technology is going through a modern-day rite of passage, and a convention has been scheduled that will focus specifically on the subject.
Called Quick-Response '89, the event is scheduled for March 21-22 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Texas.Quick response is what the retail industry calls its Just-in-Time distribution systems. Quick-response technology allows for automation of transportation, distribution and inventory keeping.
Sponsoring the event are Automation Identification Manufacturers Inc. and the Voluntary Interindustry Standards Committee (VICS).
VICS has been holding meetings since its creation. These gatherings have been devoted to developing standardized electronic versions of common retail business documents. Such documents are at the core of electronic data interchange technology.
What is important about the Quick-Response '89 meet is that it will be devoted to the needs of users rather than dealing with standards, said Glen DuBois, manager, EDI services, Levi Straus & Co., San Francisco. Mr. DuBois is also chairman of VICS' EDI standards maintenance committee.
Few companies are more deeply committed to EDI than Levi Straus, industry experts have said.
This meeting is to encompass the implementation experiences, Mr. DuBois said. It will help both current and potential users understand the pitfalls and possibilities of the technology.
Seminars will address some of the how-to questions that come up in all areas of quick-response technologies, Mr. DuBois said.
Attendance for the event is projected to hit at least 450. More than 50 companies have already signed up as exhibitors.
In retailing, quick response's electronic web stretches from the cash register all the way to the manufacturer's production line.
Quick-response systems allow stores to keep tight control of their inventory. Computer-linked cash registers report every unit sold, allowing stores to track which items are selling fast and to order more before shelves go bare.
Retailers have been using electronic systems for years. Chains that have invested in quick-response technology have reported sales boosts of 30 percent to 50 percent and more. Accounting for the boost: the ability to satisfy consumer demand that once would have been stymied by out-of-stock items.
Because of the scope of the duties they handle, quick-response systems are often complex and demanding. At the least, they demand almost complete revisions of basic business behavior.
Even retailers are often confused about what exactly the term quick response means.
Having a user-oriented conference is important because quick response has many different parts. This conference will identify the various pieces that are required to implement a quick response program, or at least to gain the full benefits of a quick response program, Mr. DuBois said.
EDI is only one of the technologies involved in quick response. Bar codes are used to label items and assist computers in gathering information.
Bar codes are rectangular, black and white striped labels that can easily be read by computerized systems. Cashiers can enter the information contained in bar codes by simply waving a laser wand over a label.
Computerized registers are essential for bar code systems to work, and sophisticated software is needed to help monitor changes in inventory level and track product in warehouses and through the distribution cycle.
EDI is the messenger. Its standardized messages allow different computers to talk to each other. This enables retailers to communicate with suppliers and suppliers to talk with transportation companies, all electronically.
Rising interest in retail EDI was the main reason Quick Response 89 was scheduled, Mr. DuBois said.
Attendance at VICS standard setting meetings had reached the point where a conference seemed not only viable but essential, he said.
We had a VICS EDI user group meeting on Oct. 25-26 in Orlando (Fla.) and we had in excess of 225 people attend, he said.
At the group's previous meeting in May, only 125 people were present, he said.